Looking back, my journey with naturally curly hair has been a big battle. Curly hair is so difficult to manage, and when I was a kid, it seemed the “only” way to manage it was by hiding it completely under a fog of de-frizzers and heat or chemical-straightening options.
In fact, my pre-teen years were spent thinking my hair would just eventually ‘calm’ down as I aged. I had no idea what adulthood (and arguably reality) actually looked like.
My teenage years were spent straightening my hair as much as possible. I didn’t understand my natural hair and it was frustrating that no matter how carefully I followed the (sans heat) steps to “sleek, straight hair”, all I got was brushed out fluffy, frizz.
Eventually, I learned a few tricks of the trade which got me past the wear-it-in-a-low-bun phase, but just because I learned how to better manage my hair doesn’t mean I understood my unique texture. Maybe partly because of all this:
These Seventeen magazines, circa 2005, were my teenage go-to’s. Maybe once or twice a year there would be an article on ‘curly’ hair, but the model clearly did NOT have curly hair, merely shiny, soft curling-iron curls. (Probably something that fueled my naive hope to “grow up” and get calmed, sleek beautiful waves.) I never saw anyone else with the type of hair I had, except my family members.
Honestly, the hair in these magazines aren’t even the biggest issues, though, which is kind of the point of my attempt at airing out my own insecurities. Just look at those magazine captions. Was I the only one who was disappointed when their oh-so-helpful tips and tricks for ‘Perfect Hair, Skin & Makeup-For You!’ failed oh-so-miserably? Thanks, Photoshop for giving me unrealistic views of women! Little did I know my skin, makeup, lips, outfits, body and especially my frizzy hair would never look like those magazine models!
Even now, as a graphic designer who spends every day in Photoshop I still have trouble disassociating the models–as human beings–from their overly-Photoshopped magazine versions of themselves.
Except when Photoshop blunders like this happen:
I saw these two movie covers in Hastings with two totally different versions of this poor guy. To note, his arm is in a different position and his chest and abs look like two totally different people. Even the angle of his head is weird and the scar on his side is different. I mean, at least keep the Photoshopping consistent, right?
I’ve seen amazing shifts lately, in general, with people really starting to grasp the idea that this built-up view of perfection is all a digital hoax. In fact, it almost seems like a trend to call foul (fowl? sports metaphors? what?) on companies who really take liberties with changing their models’ appearances. For instance videos like this one which shows a beautiful person transform into a completely different person (including hair texture!) all with editing tools, and ad campaigns like this which shows, not only different age and body types, but also features an amputee and paralympian competitor. Also, i can’t forget to mention my frizzy haired saviors from Naturally Curly who have helped me truly understand my hair texture and help all people celebrate their hair instead of hating it.
Honestly, these small changes are awesome. It’s not enough, but it’s a start. I would love to see this ‘trend’ of awareness become more than just a trendy eye-opener and really seep into our culture. Photo editing isn’t going away. It’s a fun tool that nearly everyone uses these days. (Instagram filters for the win) So it’s not JUST about shaming companies who use it unnecessarily. Yes, they have a powerful way of influencing people and they should use that for good!
However, it’s also about changing those everyday conversations we all have. Instead of “I’m so fat!” how about trying to edit our perspective into a body-positive one; “I’m so awesome, and I’m proud that I’ve been exercising.” Giving ourselves positive motivation can completely change our outlook. Then suddenly our positive attitudes are all like, “Look how awesome my legs look!” In fact, look how awesome this chick’s body-positive messages are; so much so that I would love to have her confidence.
Or, going back to one of my biggest insecurities: ROCKING my frizz on East Texas days like today that are so humid my hair could possibly balloon up into an mad scientist-esque proportions.
A body-positive society starts by changing our inner-conversations, which leaks out into our everyday conversations, which could eventually completely change our childrens’ conversations. Maybe future generations won’t even notice or worry about their ‘imperfections’ because they are surrounded by people like us who decided to change their fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, frizzy hair-shaming ways.
Let’s change the conversation. Let’s motivate ourselves, not to ‘be skinny’ or ‘be perfect’, but to be happy with who we are.
We are all more awesome than the Photoshopped versions of ourselves.